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An Outcast of the Islands

(Lingard Trilogy #2)

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  711 ratings  ·  58 reviews
I have been called a writer of the sea, of the tropics, a descriptive writer - and also a realist. But as a matter of fact all my concern has been with the 'ideal' value of things, events and people. That and nothing else - Joseph Conrad

When Willems stepped off the straight and narrow path of his own peculiar honesty he thought it would be a short episode - a sentence in b
Paperback, 295 pages
Published January 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1896)
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Henry Avila
What makes a man evil, or good ? Family, maybe friends, the environment or your own nature ? This is what Joseph Conrad's novel, An Outcast of the Islands, tries to find out, Peter Willems , a Dutch born, poor boy, leaves his miserable, bleak home, to seek a better , more prosperous future, the Sea, will be Peter's salvation. Deserting his harsh ship, in colonial Dutch East Indies, (Indonesia) during the late 1800's, the British and the Dutch, compete for territory, in the area, it's the Imperia ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Bettie by: Wanda
The Yahoo group is reading this soon and I always enjoy their choices (view spoiler) so I read alongside. The ladies know that I am crap at bookclub reads so I shall fly in tandem - seperate but together.

Read here

Front Quote: Pues el delito mayor Del hombre es haber nacito - CALDERON


Opening: When he stepped off the straight and narrow path of his peculiar honesty, it was with an inward assertion of unflinc
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book many years ago and remember liking it somewhat. This time, I read it on a long flight from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Los Angeles and loved it. Joseph Conrad is one of your better Eye-of-God writers, and in An Outcast of the Islands, he rises to his subject of colonialism in 19th century Indonesia.

Peter Willems is a clerk in a Macassar mercantile firm who is cashiered for "borrowing" money without permission from Hudig & Company. As he haunts the docks, wondering whether to pu
J.M. Hushour
"Where there are scruples there can be no power."

Conrad's second novel will tease you with glimpses of the greatness soon to come in Heart of Darkness, but will also sour you with a moderate amount of slog and overwrought prose.
In many ways, Outcast is probably the logical jumping-off point both stylistically and thematically for Conrad (I'm no Conrad scholar). This one is about Willems, a Dutch guy who falls from the graces of Other Whites due to some embezzlement and gets placed into a kind of
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Abandoned after reading half of the book. The first few chapters were good, as was the writing. Then it seemed the author wanted to tell the story mainly through one character telling another character what had happened "off stage", which made for alot of info dumps and confused this reader. I think the author should've just made the story into a novella, tightened up the plot, and let it play out in "real time" in front of the reader.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A few weeks ago, I came across a pile of Joseph Conrad’s works in old Penguin Classics, sitting on a freebie shelf at work. (As a matter of fact, I’ve used this shelf to amass quite a few books over the years.) I couldn’t resist, and now I happen to be the owner of a majority of Conrad’s works in old, cute paperbacks, with yellowed paper and all that, including the professor’s annotations, which I enjoy to decipher whilst reading.

Now there’s nothing quite cute about Conrad himself, and this earl
Thom Swennes
Sep 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Born in Rotterdam to an impoverished family, Peter Willems escapes that life and travels to Malaysia where he jumps ship and begs asylum. In later years, when he had worked himself up to a position of trust and importance, one stupid act brings his life and world tumbling down around him. Willems is a man, like so many, that doesn’t recognize the kismet, luck and fortune in front of him and squanders it away without even realizing it. This makes the discovery of his folly even more painful. Seld ...more
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's a perennial mystery how one can enjoy a book when there are no likeable characters and the trajectory is relentlessly downward to tragedy. It can only be that Conrad is such a superb writer, with his ability to analyse and describe emotion and to reflect it in the setting. The raw misery of these lives, especially of the women, seeps out of every page but you can't stop reading. If this book has a flaw, then some of the speech patterns, especially of Almayer, are a little stilted - just occ ...more
Greg Clough
Dec 11, 2012 rated it liked it

Conrad's novel "Outcast" is a good read for those interested in colonial literature about the Malay archipelago. I'd choose Lord Jim if I was reading the sublime Conrad for the first time. Conrad requires a bit of effort, but the pay off is well worth it.
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
pure Conrad. slow, detailed, reflective. when i got done reading it i felt like i had lived it, so vivid were the memories.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I have come to a conclusion: me and Mr Conrad don't get on. I did read Heart of Darkness all the way through. I remember trying to read the Secret Agent a few years ago and not getting into it at all. And I'm quitting this at page 58. It is drier than the driest bone in the desert, drivels on and I really couldn't give a monkeys what happens to anyone or anything in this book.

Set in Malaysia in the 1800s, there's a Dutch guy who was a raggamuffin stowaway on a British ship, if I followed i
Nick Jones
Sep 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Joseph Conrad’s second novel and my favourite amongst his early work – but that is partly a sentimental attachment: it was the first Conrad work I read. I have now read it for a third time, but as the three readings were over a period of almost 40 years I don’t think I can be accused of overdoing it. It lacks the integration or sharpness of Conrad’s finest, later work, but it is more than an apprentice work: Conrad’s methods and interests are all there. Formally, for instance, while it doesn’t c ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Published back in 1896, this is Conrad's second novel, and it's mesmerizing. The titular outcast is a nasty human being who thinks himself superior as a white man, and as a man in general. Things don't go well for him in his life, though, honestly, they don't go too well for any character given more than a paragraph of concern in this novel. There is a quote from a contemporary HG Wells review of the novel in which Conrad is said to have to learn to leave words out, but I love the attention to d ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
May 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
If anybody is a role model for me in writing and I can read everything he wrote and everything written about him, it would be Joseph Conrad. He compels my utmost respect and huge admiration. We are talking about a Polish who was taught French first and he mastered, but then later English to learn was a necessity and so he learns and masters it. This was a sea man and his heroes and heroines have a lot of who he is. In this book, Outcast of the Islands, the Malay Arab woman as he liked to call he ...more
Dec 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-books, read-in-2012
Man, this was dramatic! It has a very different feel to it than Heart of Darkness, which makes sense since it's an earlier work. It didn't flow or hang together quite as well as Conrad's later stuff, and I kind of felt like every single character in this book was crazy, but I still enjoyed it. ...more
Aug 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
For some reason I couldn't get into this book. Normally I enjoy Conrad.
Apr 27, 2016 rated it liked it
It is curious to think that Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling were both writing at around the same time, as they outline a view of colonialism that is entirely different from one another. The only thing that they have in common is their condescending and racist attitude towards the nations that are colonised.

However, while Kipling sees colonialism in a positive manner as the White Man’s Burden, part of the task of civilising other races that are inferior to his own, Conrad has no such illusions.
Paul Cornelius
Conrad followed up his first novel, Almayer's Folly, with this, An Outcast of the Islands. While it lacks the concentrated sense of devastation of the soul and all aspirations that appear in Almayer's Folly, Outcast yields its own bleak rewards. It reintroduces Tom Lingard and Kaspar Almayer but focuses on a degenerate failed businessman, Peter Willems, whose greatest talent, as with many other Conradian characters, is self deception and the ability to rationalize betrayal. He is the worst of th ...more
James Williamson
Aug 13, 2020 rated it liked it
An Outcast of the Islands tells the story of Peter Willems who, through corruption, loses his good job and is rescued and relocated by the man that helped him get where he was in the first place, captain Tom Lingard. Willems is placed among natives in Sambir, where he has been given a chance to start afresh despite his previous failures. However, he gets into trouble all over again, and manages to offend the local leaders with which he is supposed to cooperate. Willem's selfishness and misogyny ...more
Steve R
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) and Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) were virtual contemporaries, not only chronologically, but in their common interest in the dominating practice of nations during their time: imperialism. It is most likely that Conrad was familiar with Kipling’s evocation of ‘the white man’s burden’ : a noblesse-oblige form of benevolent despotism as the ‘god’ part of the ‘gold-glory-and-god’ triumvirate of motivations for imperial forays came into play. As well, Kipling’s famous dictum t ...more
Lukrezia Cosimo
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: polish, english, novel
The plot is thick from the start. There is a lot going on. This early novel is not as simply told as his later ones. There are the natives in their homeland, there are the White traders and fortune seekers, and there are Arab Moslems. Willems, the central figure, is playing a selfish role and taking advantage of all three groups, and is especially unfair to women.

This novel has a strong finish. I did see the 1951 film based on this story--though much embellished and changed--and wish they script
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it
As a prequel to its predecessor, Outcast of the Islands can be read together with Almayer's Folly to form a larger saga of Lingard, Almayer, and the various denizens of Sambir. Indeed, both books contain many of the same elements - exotic, primitive locale; a enveloping natural environment that becomes a character in the story; distasteful brooding protagonists who are outcasts and/or fallen men; strong, scheming half-caste women. In Outcast of the Islands, Conrad's writing has matured greatly f ...more
Jan 21, 2015 rated it liked it
The narrative dragged for a bit, I've been reading a lot of Conrad lately; but the prose, the sense of isolation, the cross cultural love and lust, the tortured character of Willem... Brilliant. So many quotable moments, each as exquisite and uniquely 'Conradian' as the last. The old softie could have easily been the John Green of our days, with more darkness and existential angst :) Admittedly, though, that would detract from his observations about the evils of colonialism and racism of the tim ...more
Bhavya Viswarajan
May 22, 2015 rated it liked it

There's something very Dostoyevskian about Conrad (or maybe it was just me). Conrad doesn't simply draw his characters. He details them. Their forms are not not only made visible, but are also distinct. From Willems to Lingard to Aissa, everyone has a story to tell. It seems surprising though that Almayer is the only one who has a separate work named after him. If you ask me, every one of the characters (down to Ali and Aissa's old female companion), deserve a book written on them.
Marts  (Thinker)
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Firstly, you can read this online from here:

Willems ends up in a scandal in Makassar, betrays those who do him good, and ends up as a fugitive...
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
No one captures Western man at the limits of civilization quite like Joseph Conrad. The looming antediluvial presence of Nature, the malarial rivers, the seething hostility of the colonized, the sweat-soaked ambition of Empire seeking and exploring the Heart of Darkness.
Bob Newman
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wordy Melodrama Still Strikes a Chord

As has often been noted, this novel was written before Conrad's period of greatness. Perhaps it doesn't measure up in psychological depth to such books as "The Secret Sharer", "Heart of Darkness", "The Secret Agent" or "Lord Jim", but written by anyone else, it would elevate them into the ranks of Great Literature. A scandal leads to the dismissal of a trusted agent for a Dutch trader in what is now Indonesia. His Eurasian wife, with whom relations have never
Kevin Hinman
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
There are fragments of a great book in Joseph Conrad's early novel of exile and revolution. The scene where Lingard, fuming with anger, finally confronts the scoundrel Willems, is a streak of excellent, punchy prose and hints at a leaner, more ferocious novel than the one presented. These dexterous moments, along with Conrad's pessimistic exploration of existentialism, of the cruelty and indifference of nature, imbue the work with a literary quality that elevates it above the dime-novel trapping ...more
John Mccullough
Apr 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is Joseph Conrad’s second book and includes a reprise for characters Captain Tom Lingard, Kaspar Almayer and his family, but the book’s main thrust is a description of the foibles of Dutch ex-patriot Peter Willems and the consequences of his actions. As in some of his other books, a second, more important lesson is a description of the flawed Europeans – flawed to the point of criminal – and their stupendously disgusting attitudes to, and destructive actions toward, the darker-skinned peopl ...more
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Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ) was a Polish-born English novelist who today is most famous for Heart of Darkness, his fictionalized account of Colonial Africa.

Conrad left his native Poland in his middle teens to avoid conscription into the Russian Army. He joined the French Merchant Marine and briefly employed himself as a wartime gunrunner. He then began to work aboard

Other books in the series

Lingard Trilogy (3 books)
  • Almayer's Folly
  • The Rescue

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